Musical memory refers to the ability to remember music-related information, such as melodic content and other progressions of tones or pitches. The differences found between linguistic memory and musical memory have led researchers to theorize that musical memory is encoded differently from language.
Recent research has demonstrated that the normal right hemisphere of the brain responds to melody holistically, whereas the left hemisphere of the brain evaluates melodic passages in a more analytic fashion.
For instance, while listening to the melody of the popular carol “Silent Night”, the right hemisphere thinks, “Ah, yes, Silent Night”, while the left hemisphere thinks, “two sequences: the first a literal repetition, the second a repetition at different pitch levels… ah, yes, Silent Night by Franz Gruber, typical pastorate folk style.”
The brain for the most part works well when each hemisphere performs its own function while solving a task or problem, and the two hemispheres are quite complementary. However, situations arise musical memory when the two modes are in conflict, resulting in one hemisphere interfering with the operation of the other hemisphere.